On the ideology of Hypodescent: Political Conservatism Predicts Categorization of Racially Ambiguous Faces as Black

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2013-05-27 01:38Z by Steven

On the ideology of Hypodescent: Political Conservatism Predicts Categorization of Racially Ambiguous Faces as Black

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
In Press (May 2013)
32 pages

Amy R. Krosch
Department of Psychology
New York University

Leslie Berntsen
University of Southern California

David M. Amodio, Associate Professor of Psychology and Neural Science
New York University

John T. Jost, Professor of Psychology and Politics
New York University

Jay J. Van Bavel, Assistant Professor of Psychology
New York University

According to the principle of hypodescent, multiracial individuals are categorized according to their most socially subordinate group membership. We investigated whether the tendency to apply this principle is related to political ideology. In three studies, participants categorized a series of morphed faces that varied in terms of racial ambiguity. In each study, self-reported conservatism (vs. liberalism) was associated with the tendency to categorize ambiguous faces as Black. Consistent with the notion that system justification motivation helps to explain ideological differences in racial categorization, the association between conservatism and hypodescent was mediated by individual differences in opposition to equality (Study 2) and was stronger when U.S. participants categorized American than Canadian faces (Study 3). We discuss ways in which the categorization of racially ambiguous individuals in terms of their most subordinate racial group may exacerbate inequality and vulnerability to discrimination.

Barack Obama (2004) jokingly describes his mother as “White as milk,” but the fact is that he is seen as the United States’ first Black president. Following the repeal of anti-miscegenation laws and the gradual normalizing of interracial relationships, the United States of America has become an increasingly multiracial society, with a 32% increase in the number of citizens identifying as more than one race over the last decade (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). Nevertheless, monoracial labels are frequently applied to multiracial individuals, and “White” is rarely applied to persons of mixed racial heritage (Hirschfeld, 1995).

The tendency to categorize multiracial individuals according to their most socially subordinate racial group membership reflects the principle of hypodescent, which is closely associated with the notorious “one drop rule” in American history (Banks & Eberhardt, 1998; Hollinger, 2003). From the earliest days of American slavery through the Civil Rights Era, this principle was formally employed to subjugate individuals with any non-White heritage by denying them full rights and liberties under the law. For instance, individuals who had lived in the United States for years but were one-quarter or even one-eighth Japanese were forced to live in internment camps during World War II (Werner, 2000).

Social psychological research reveals that the principle of hypodescent characterizes racial categorization even today. When research participants are presented with images of Black/White biracial targets, they are more likely to classify them as Black than White (e.g., Halberstadt, Sherman, & Sherman, 2011; Ho, Sidanius, Levin, & Banaji, 2011; Peery & Bodenhausen, 2008). Furthermore, it appears to take fewer minority characteristics (e.g., facial features or ancestors) to be judged as “Black,” compared to the proportion of majority characteristics it takes to be judged as “White” (Ho et al., 2011)…

…In this article, we propose that biased racial categorization may also be related to ideological motives. Prior research has indicated that race perception and categorization may be influenced by a number of motives, including social identification (Knowles & Peng, 2005) and biological essentialism (Plaks, Malahy, Sedlins, & Shoda, 2012). Furthermore, Caruso, Mead, and Balcetis (2009) found that political conservatives were more likely to believe that a darkened photo of Barack Obama represented his actual appearance, as compared with liberals and moderates. These results are broadly consistent with public opinion data revealing that Republicans are more likely than Democrats and Independents to state that President Obama is Black rather than biracial (Pew Research Center, 2011). In the current research, we explored whether liberals and conservatives would differ in their categorization of racially ambiguous individuals in a nonpolitical context and examined potential psychological mediators of this proposed relationship. More specifically, we conducted three studies to investigate the hypothesis that there would be ideological differences in biased racial categorization…

Read the entire article here.

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The Obamas and a (Post) Racial America?

Posted in Anthologies, Barack Obama, Books, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2012-10-03 18:49Z by Steven

The Obamas and a (Post) Racial America?

Oxford University Press
January 2011
336 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4
Hardback ISBN13: 9780199735204; ISBN10: 0199735204

Edited by

Gregory Parks, Assistant Professor of Law
Wake Forest University, Winston Salem, North Carolina

Matthew Hughey, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Connecticut

The United States has taken a long and winding road to racial equality, especially as it pertains to relations between blacks and whites. On November 4, 2008, when Barack Hussein Obama was elected as the forty-fourth President of the United States and first black person to occupy the highest office in the land, many wondered whether that road had finally come to an end. Do we now live in a post-racial nation?

According to this book’s contributors, a more nuanced and contemporary analysis and measurement of racial attitudes undercuts this assumption. They contend that despite the election of the first black President and rise of his family as possibly the most recognized family in the world, race remains a salient issue-particularly in the United States. Looking beyond public behaviors and how people describe their own attitudes, the contributors draw from the latest research to show how, despite the Obama family’s rapid rise to national prominence, many Americans continue to harbor unconscious, anti-black biases. But there are whispers of change. The Obama family’s position may yet undermine, at the unconscious level, anti-black attitudes in the United States and abroad. The prominence of the Obamas on the world stage and the image they project may hasten the day when America is indeed post-racial, even at the implicit level.


  • Draws on a growing body of scholarly literature on implicit racial bias.
  • Discusses the implications of the entire First Family’s rise to prominence, not simply the President’s.


  • Contributors
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Measuring Racial Progress in America: The Tangled Path of Race – by Matthew W. Hughey (Commentary: Constraint and Freedom in the “Age of Obama” – by Kenneth Mack)
  • Chapter 2: Implicit Bias: A Better Metric for Racial Progress? – Leslie Ashburn-Nardo, Robert Livingston and Joshua Waytz (Commentary: The Erasure of the Affirmative Action Debate in the Age of Obama – by Ian Ayres)
  • Chapter 3: Black Man in the White House: Ideology and Implicit Racial Bias in the Age of Obama – by Kristin Lane and John Jost (Commentary: Black Man in the White House: A Commentary – Marc H. Morial)
  • Chapter 4: Obama-nation?: Implicit Beliefs about American Nationality and the Possibility of Redefining Who Counts as “Truly” American – by Nilanjana Dasgupta and Kumar Yogeeswaran (Commentary: As American as Barack Obama – by Lawrence Bobo)
  • Chapter 5: Does Black and Male Still = Threat in the Age of Obama? – by Jennifer A. Richeson and Meghan G. Bean (Commentary: Threat, Fantasy, and President Obama – by Eddie Glaude, Jr.)
  • Chapter 6: Michelle Obama: Redefining Images of Black Women – by Shanette C. Porter and Gregory S. Parks (Commentary: First Lady Michelle Obama: Getting Past the Stereotypes – Julianne Malveaux)
  • Chapter 7: Barack, Michelle and the Complexities of a Black “Love Supreme” – Clarenda M. Phillips, Tamara L. Brown and Gregory S. Parks (Commentary: The Obamas: Beyond Troubled Love – by Jenée Desmond-Harris)
  • Chapter 8: Malia and Sasha: Re-envisioning Black Youth – by Valerie Purdie-Vaughns and Rachel Sumner (Commentary: Re-envisioning Black Youth: A Commentary by Marc Lamont Hill)
  • Chapter 9: Obama and Global Change in Attitudes about Group Status – by George Ciccariello-Maher and Matthew Hughey (Commentary: Commentary on Obama and Group Change in Attitudes about Group Status – Michael Dawson)
  • Chapter 10: The Role of Race in American Politics: Lessons Learned from the 2008 Presidential Election – by Thierry Devos (Commentary: The State of the Post-racial Union – by Farai Chideya)
  • Chapter 11: Obama’s Potential to Transform the Racial Attitudes of White Americans – by Jack Dovidio, Samuel L. Gaertner, Tamar Saguy and Eric Hehman (Commentary: Black Behavior and Moral Dissonance: Missing Mechanisms in Theorizing the Obama Effect – by Richard O. Lempert)
  • Chapter 12: New Bottle, Same Old Wine: The GOP and Race in the Age of Obama – by Russell J. Webster, Donald A. Saucier and Gregory S. Parks (Commentary: New Bottle, Same Old Wine: A Response – by Melissa Harris-Lacewell)
  • About the Editors, Contributors, and Commentators
  • Index
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